Liverpool Premier League Preview: The return of the kings?
by Lee O’Connor
From Mourinho whinging about us ‘buying everything and everyone’ to Spurs fans trying to drum up a non-existent rivalry with Reds on Twitter and a distinct lack of Blues telling us our ‘heads are falling off’, one thing is for certain; the rest of the Premier League are concerned, if not petrified, that Liverpool could do some serious damage this season.
And rightly so too. On the back of reaching the Champions League Final and some mightily impressive performances in the league last year, Klopp has strengthened his squad with what looks like genuine quality. In the shape of Alisson, Keita, Fabinho and Shaqiri, our options have been bolstered in some key areas and we can now make changes to the side without fear of a serious drop in the talent available.
For the first time in many a year, there is a feeling amongst not just our fanbase but the wider football world that the Reds are set to challenge again for real. But it’s this very fact (even the dogs in the street are barking it) which gives me the most cause for concern. Too often in the past have we seen Liverpool teams come undone after getting carried away with a few good performances. Usually a Lovren or Lallana will come out to the press and start talking about how ‘we’re feeling unbeatable at the moment’ before we go on to consecutive poor results against the league’s dross. This season, things need to be different. We need to make sure we get the job done, in it’s entirety, before we start talking about the return of the (rightful) kings of English football.
Here are the five men I’m earmarking to have the biggest effect on Liverpool’s 2018/2019 campaign.
There’s no need to point out the reasons why the signing of Brazil’s Number One was so important this summer. That the club were willing to part with a (then) world-record fee for a goalkeeper only underlined the importance of having a top-class keeper between the sticks. With a reputation for incredible anticipation and reflexes, as well as an eye for a forward pass, Alisson will need to hit the ground running to settle some early season, goalie-related nerves in the stadium. He’s expected to win us points on his own and, if we’re to challenge, will need to.
The speed at which the young man from West Derby has developed is nothing short of remarkable. Still only a teenager, TAA looked like he’d been part of this Liverpool side for years during his breakthrough campaign last season. He also looks to have progressed beyond Nathaniel Clyne and, with Joe Gomez tipped to play more centrally this season, Trent will a mainstay of the Klopp’s eleven again this time around. Along with valuable ability from dead balls, he also brings the local Scouse passion which has been a vital component in Liverpool’s great teams over the years.
From an attacking point of view it’d be obvious to plump for Salah here, given his incredible exploits over the last twelve months. But, for me, the single most important player in our ‘terrific trio’ is Bobby Firmino. His chasing back, ability to regain possession and general class going forward allows Mane and Mohamed to express themselves and exploit the spaces on the counter . Liverpool supporters have been singing Firmino’s praises for the last few years…many others are now taking note. I’m backing him to reach 25 league goals this campaign.
Virgil Van Dijk
Again, the club must be praised here for sealing the huge deal which brought Van Dijk to the club back in January. Especially since at one stage it looked dead in the water. Having scored on his debut against the bitters, Big Virg was a Kop idol in no time. Strong in the tackle, dominant in the air and classy on the ball, VVD is everything a Liverpool centre half should be. And to think, he’s only the second best defender at the club after Dejan. Scary.
The man whose vision, determination and passion has got Red hearts believing and rival hearts fearing. Jurgen Norbett Klopp, we salute you. But make no mistake; for all the fantastic football, heartwarming hugs and sound soundbites that come with the beautiful Klopp package, the man himself will know that he must deliver silverware, and soon. It’s ultimately how he’ll be judged. Let’s hope this year is, erm you know, our year.
I could’ve easily added another five or six names to the above list and it’d have been difficult to argue against any of them being a key component in our future success. The likes of Robertson, Mane, Salah, Keita, Milner and Henderson will all have massive parts to play, along with our other two new signings, Shaqiri and Fabinho. What’s that coming over the hill?
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